Horse owners in the New Forest have reacted angrily to proposals by the national park authority that will require them to apply for planning permission to graze horses.
The recommendations, part of a 20-year plan, are designed to take greater control of agricultural land in the forest.
But residents, horse owners and New Forest pony groups say the plan for the ancient forest in Hampshire may severely affect horse welfare.
Shirley Young of the New Forest Publicity Group said: “The park authority is not looking after the welfare of horses and must consult closely with their owners.”
The proposal seeks to differentiate between grazing on agricultural land and “keeping” horses on land designated for leisure use.
It states that horses kept on grazing land must be self-sustaining, can’t be rugged or fed hay, and the plan also sets a livestock density of no more than one horse per hectare.
If horses are “kept” — fed and rugged — the landowner will need planning permission for a change of use of the land.
Chairman of the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society Gill Wright said: “We do think these proposals are incredibly worrying. If you can’t rug or feed your pony hay, it’s actually stopping you looking after it. We’re very concerned.”
A spokesman for the New Forest National Park Authority said everyone affected should reply to the consultation document before 31 October.
To register your views, visit www.newsforestnpa.gov.uk